This past weekend marked the 28th Annual Marcia Légère Student Festival, an event in which the work of talented student playwrights and directors are chosen and exhibited for two days at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
This year, five different plays were selected and performed from the nights of March 7 to March 9. The themes of the shows ranged from, “All The Reasons You Wake in The Night,” a play that focuses on what the hazy area between when you sleep and dream represents, to “Apologia Gnosi,” a piece that uses a malfunctioning android and two robotics students to reflect on the odd way in which humans think.
These plays were all formulated by University of Wisconsin students and appealed to themes which struck them. “Apologia Gnosi” playwright and PhD student Joshua Kelly, for example, found inspiration in fallibility.
“I was struck a couple of years ago by how fallible our ability to know things is, even such things are logically and empirically sound,” Kelly said, “I was in the same sense struck by how, despite such fallibility, we can often have valid and true conclusions without being aware. This seemed to me like an elegant glitch in human thinking, and I wanted to hold a mirror up to it.”
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Kelly said he truly wants the audience to watch “Apologia Gnosi” with an open mind, as well as noting that some may find his work “pretentious” if they are not in the mood for the play. He hoped the audience would take time to reflect on what they have seen.
“The gimmick of an android’s glitch looking very similar to human error was interesting enough for me to write about it — perhaps it will be interesting enough for them to think about it,” Kelly said. “More than anything, I hope [the audience] feels reflective.”
Some of the creators have a different approach to what they expected from their audience.
One of these was Abi Priepke, the director of “Testament.”
“I hope the end of ‘Testament’ brings about a deep feeling of being present, a certain awareness of the space you occupy,” Priepke said. “It’s not depressing — more so that you should feel so much for the pair of them even after it’s over.”
Although the plays and creators themselves vary, the minds behind the magic all share a love for the stage and the excitement of being selected to be part of the festival, with Priepke noting she was “ecstatic” to get picked as a director.
One of the most valuable parts about being a student involved in theatre is that there are so many areas within the theatrical world to explore, and the department gives students the freedom to explore many of them.
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“I was an actor for a few years before I went to college. I fell in love with the theater as a craft and wanted to experience it through directing,” Kelly said. “Some of the best directors I worked with were also scholars and dramatists, so I decided to take a PhD route in graduate school … I still feel the need to flex the acting muscle and try to perform in at least one show a year.”
Priepke plans on using her experience as a launching board for a less direct kind of a theatrical career — theatre education.
“I’m a theatre major with a vague plan to go into theatre education in the future,” Priepke said. “In that vein, I want to have done as much theatre in as many capacities as I can in order to present personal experience to future students. I also really admire the work that directors do — I think a good director can breathe life into a production. I knew Marcia Légère was a relatively low stakes way to get a first directing experience, and it turned out to be a better one than I could’ve hoped for.”
If you couldn’t attend the twenty-eighth annual Marcia Légère Student Festival this past week, make sure to mark your calendar for March 29. This is the work of the best UW has to offer —and it’s not something you want to miss.